Lesser Mountain Ringlet (Erebia melampus)
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2021 photographs highlighted green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.
|22933_male_Valais, Switzerland_22Jul10||27685_male_Valais, Switzerland_22Jul11||13088_male_Valais, Switzerland_17Jul08|
|18706_male_Savoie_16Jul09||8180_male_Vaud, Switzerland_19Jul07||36322_male_Valais, Switzerland_19Jul14|
A small, high altitude, Erebia ringlet. Although it is one of several smaller Erebia of broadly similar size, I feel it is quite easy to identify (from other common Erebia of the same size) from the highly rounded forewing margin, the "sliced" upf wide red post-discal band with pinprick (sometimes vestigial) ocelli in s4 and 5 and to a lesser extent in s3. It is quite similar to the very localised Sudeten Ringlet (E. sudetica) which I have only seen on two occasions, so I am mainly going by the book illustrations. The defining characteristic (melampus vs. sudetica) is the unh red post-discal spots, where Lafranchis says the melampus spots in s3 and s4 (the second and third ones from the bottom) are displaced from being in line with the other three, and the spot in s4 is larger than the others, whereas in sudetica they are more or less in line; I would tend to say that the melampus spot in s3 is the one that is displaced, but this is a minor point. It certainly seems true that the spot in s4 is larger, and it also appears that the melampus spots are somewhat lanceolate (leaf-shaped) whereas the sudetica spots appear almost circular.
It is also quite similar to the Eriphyle Ringlet (E. eriphyle) of which Lafranchis says in his France book that it flies in western Switzerland and could fly in France but does not include a page entry for it; however, in his ID book he says it does fly in Savoie in France; see the comments regarding eriphyle on 8180 below. Lafranchis says that the eriphyle uph spot in s4 is constant and distinctly larger than the others. This appears to hold true for the unh (although Lafranchis does not specifically state this) based on photographs on trusted websites such as Matt Rowlings' and Guy Padfield's, both of which also rather confirm that the eriphyle s4 red spot is rather elongated.
The very scarce and localised Ratzer's Ringlet (E. christi) is cited in the books as occurring only around the Simplon Pass on the Switzerland/Italy border, but a UK expert once told me that it did occur in France. Like many butterfly things, sometimes an opinion is based on historical information of localities that have since disappeared, or maybe mistaken identification, or maybe the maverick experts are sometimes right, but in many cases I suspect no-one really knows for sure.
Lafranchis says melampus is widespread and abundant in Savoie and Haute-Savoie, but I have not found it so, although it was fairly common in the Valais in Switzerland.
a typical melampus male, with very vestigial blind ocelli in s4 and s5. The uph red spot in s4 is appreciably larger than the others, but I don't think that it is sufficiently so to warrant a suggestion that it might be eriphyle. Also, the upf red post-discal band looks too broad for eriphyle.
|27653||M||classic male melampus.||2160|
a male, fairly typical with quite a wide upf red post-discal band and pin-prick ocelli in s3, 4 and 5.
a male, based on it's taking salts. The red post-discal band is narrower than 13088 which is typical melampus, and the interior edges of the band are dentate, again not typical melampus. The uph red mark in s4 is quite clearly extended, perhaps a pointer to eriphyle, but the uph red spots are just too large for eriphyle and the pinprick ocelli also tend to suggest not eriphyle. It must be melampus, but some doubts remain.
a male, the rounded forewing margins being characteristic of melampus. However, the inner edges of the upf post-discal series are quite dentate (I would say bullet-shaped), c.f. 13088, matching the T&L illustration of eriphyle, known to occur in Vaud. The unh of both melampus and eriphyle are very similar but T&L says the eriphyle unh red spots have no black centres, so, based on a view of the underside I had, 8180 must be melampus on the strength of this and the wing shape. The shape of the upf red spots was just a diversion. The uph red markings are more definitive, especially in s4, but not sufficiently visible here.
|36322||M||a male with a red post-discal band of typical width for this species.||2090|
|41847||M||a fresh male, with very vestigial upf ocelli, only in s5.||1680|
|27685||M||a fairly standard underside.||2160|
the red post-discal spots look like a 100% match for melampus, in terms of size and location (s3 slightly displaced, s4 rather larger), plus the pinprick ocelli.